Kuningan was this Saturday in Bali and many people flocked to points on the coast to celebrate it. Around Kuta I saw many staff in convenience stores and other buildings in traditional costume waiting to get off work and head to a temple somewhere.
I went to Serangan a couple of years ago and saw some of the ceremonies going on there. This year I went to Tanah Lot, the temple that juts outs in the ocean, as I knew there must be something going on there.
From Seminyak it takes about 25 minutes to get to Tanah Lot and on the way I passed road side satay vendors who were making the most of feeding the hungry passers by.
There is a 4,000rp entrance fee to Tanah Lot and that includes parking. I have been many times before and to be honest it is a tourist trap, the entrance funneling you directly through a nick-nack market. Still the temple itself does occupy a unique location and on this day I was surprised as the tourists outnumbered the Balinese. No wearing sarongs here. There were bus loads of people from Taiwan, Korea and other parts of Indonesia and you will not see any of them packing a sarong. I liked watching the priests trying to get people through the encroaching waves for a blessing at the bottom of the temple, for a fee of course. The priests were not going to let high-tide deter their money making antics until it was certain no more punters could be blessed.
In front of one of the shops 2 girls played with a big snake, almost terrorizing some ladies from Taiwan who had clearly never been anywhere near such a beast and had scene enough Animal Planet to know they meant business.
Strolling down Kuta Beach around 4pm I saw this young lad who had been buried in sand by his 2 friends. He looked pleased with himself and it was amusing watching muslim tourists from Java strolling up and videoing him. I reckon Kuta Beach has a reputation in Indonesia much like Venice beach in California and one can imagine the stories that get told back in Java about large ladies from Europe in tiny swimsuits and the antics of the Balinese.
I got a surprise phone call around 6.30pm to tell me people were assembling at my house for a dinner at the banjar. As per normal, concerning anything involving myself and Indonesians, I am the last one to hear about it. A group of 7 of us had a voucher courtesy of Hammerhead Fitness Center in Legian, (where I go and Ika used to work) to attend a buffet dinner at the local banjar (neighborhood) pavilion. The banjar, as many people know is a local Balinese organization that has cultural roots going back a long way. Every Balinese married man is asked to join the banjar and they control land sales, ceremonies and in the Kuta area have a tremendous amount of power. Balinese friends have told me they have witnessed banjar men in religious outfits killing a thief in the street in front of everyone and there is nothing the police can do about it, because they are all members of the banjar.
Every village has a banjar and places like Kuta and Denpasar have many large banjars. People say that in Kuta the Balinese locals do not respect the police at all and will ride the wrong way down one way streets as the banjar holds sway here.
Ika told me that one of the ways the banjar makes money is to sell vouchers to their get together in the pavilion. They go around to all the businesses and have a list of what they expect each type of business to pay. For a gym it will be 1m rp. In exchange the gym gets a voucher for 8 people to go to the buffet. Refusing is not really an option, they will close your business down by telling all the staff not to show up. Last year in a show of strength banjar Seminyak closed down the whole of Jl. Dhyana Pura, the main party street, for a weekend. That told every restaurant and bar on that street what can happen if you step out of line.
The gym is located in Legian close to Jl. Melasti and so the banjar pavilion was the one further up Jl. Legian. We were seated and a Balinese dancing performance was in progress. A whole table full of buffet items, rice, noodles, soup, chicken, satay, etc. had been prepared for us. I for one was pretty pleased. Usually when I go out with a group of Indonesians its my wallet that takes a beating and this time somebody was giving something to me, makes a beautiful change!
Half way through the dinner a herd of Balinese locals, all under the age of 20 showed up, probably 100 or so, girls all at separate tables to the boys. I think it is interesting to see how they act. People over here are quite relaxed and tend not to get bent out of shape over personal things. I could see a couple of the guys casting an eye over a table of girls. Here in Bali when a boy likes a girl the approach is pretty direct. Indonesian and Balinese are not romantic languages. There are not too many words for pretty. People are not going to go the western route and pretend to have a shared interest (would you like to visit the art exhibit its quite masterful?). None of that nonsense. A man might use words like kayun, suka, deman, nyak which all mean to like, or to desire.
One fellow from the gym plus a small group of Ikas friends made up our group and we all ate as much as we wanted. One of the things that tickled me was when the waitress came around with a tray of sodas. She handed me a Coke, Ika a Fanta, someone else got a strawberry, there was choosing, we just got whatever she handed us.
The dinner was finished off with a local grunge band belting out some pain for us. Ika asked why the singer sang like that. I told her that maybe his parents were mean to him when he was a kid. We took off with some take away packages for relatives.
The banjar made a profit, the young local Balinese got to eat and mingle for free and us gym-users got part of our increased membership justified.